One of the best games of 2008 has just received its first downloadable content here in early 2009. But is this 369MB download worthy enough to take up your hard drive space and 800 MS Points out of your wallet?
The trickiest part after installing this download is finding out how to actually access it. The first problem I encountered happened when loading my last saved game. Once you enter the very last room of the game, there is absolutely no way to exit. The only way to go back is to load a previous save. But this sucked for me because my last save prior to that game ending auto save was about 30 minutes apart causing me to retrace some of my steps. But if you are one of those gamers that solely rely on that auto save function, you would be totally out of luck and would have to start a new game.
Finally reaching the over world from my previous save, I was greeted with a message from my PIPBOY. It basically tells you to listen to the radio feature on your PIPBOY for a special broadcast. Tuning to this hidden frequency tells you that soldiers at Bailey’s Crossroads need your help. However, finding Bailey’s Crossroads is a mission unto itself.
After a couple hours of aimless wandering, I had to resort to an online faqs to reach this destination. Reaching these crossroads is a little taxing because you can only enter this passway via a specific path (you basically have to walk around a giant hill to find a small entrance door on the side of a building). Combined with the autosave problem, it probably took me about 2-3 hours before I actually entered the Operation Anchorage DLC. But in all fairness, this could just be me.
Brotherhood Outcasts found a hidden armory but cannot get its door open. The only way to open this armory (which is filled with goodies) is to complete the “simulation.” However, this VR mission can only be accessed through the use of a PIPBOY, which makes the player the best and only candidate. Unfortunately, if you die in the simulation, you die in real life…aka, you will need to load up a previous saved game.
Operation Anchorage is a very straight forward side mission that will last about 2-3 hours. Four achievements are directly associated with this downloadable content and all will be unlocked with a natural play through (100 gamerscore points in total).
Taking place on the frozen tundra of Alaska, the player is tasked with holding back the Chinese as they attempt to cross into America in this futuristic simulation. All the weapons, armor and items that you had before you stepped into the simulator will be removed when playing through this mission. The game gives you all the weapons and gadgets you are going to need. Operation Anchorage is a very linear quest with really no option for exploration. This isn’t all bad though because seeing the bright blues and whites of frozen Alaska is a major difference from the repetitive dark greens and browns of the nuclear wasteland. This extra content is really unlike anything found in the main game.
The main aspect of this DLC is combat. Yes, you have the option to take a stealthy route, but the player will always find his way into a firefight. Keeping combat unique, the player will find the gauss rifle early in the quest. This one-shot-at-a-time gun is very powerful but has a hefty reload time. But the player will need this powerful shot when facing the stealth gear of the Chinese Dragoons. Almost like the Cyborg Ninja in Metal Gear Solid, these ninjas wear optic camouflage to make them invisible. They are pretty good sniper shots too. Although never really overly challenging, there are more difficult firefights such as the fight against the Chimera tank and the final battle against the communist leader.
Operation Anchorage constantly reminds the player that they are in a simulation. Blue matrix-patterned boarders line the game’s invisible walls, enemies dissolve away upon death, and there are even speech options that reference that this isn’t the real world. Also, instead of using stimpaks and scavenging ammo, the player reloads and regains health at dispensers conveniently placed where you need them most.
The biggest bonus to Operation Anchorage (besides the Achievment points) are the goodies you get to take with you after you are brought back into the real world. The gauss rifle and special combat knife can be added to your weaponry while the player can try on the ninja stealth armor (+15 stealth) and the T-51b combat armor (which is even better than the Power Armor I was originally wearing). Trying not to spoil too much, the player will probably find good use for these new items almost immediately after picking them up.
In total, this extra mission will probably take around 2-4 hours to complete depending on your level and style of play. Although you can participate in this extra mission as soon as you leave the vault, I say the perfect time to enter this DLC would probably be around level 17. Because there are so many enemies to kill, you will be racking up experience points left and right and could possibly reach the level 20 level cap upon exiting.
If you are a Fallout 3 fan, there is no reason to not download this extra mission for a $10 price point. Actually getting to this mission is probably the most challenging and frustrating part, but the four Achievements and extra items make this download a must have for completionists and rabid fans.
Be sure to keep your eye out for The Pitt (Feb 2009 release) and Broken Steel (March 2009 release), which will bring a new mission to the Fallout 3 universe as the other raises the cap level to 30.